Of Mics and Men in Harlem

The Tragedy and Legacy of Big L

June 15 marked the release of Double Up, tentatively Mase's final hip-hop effort, and one which ironically attempts to return to Murder Mase's tales of inner-city crime and punishment just after Mason Betha has turned to God—the album was on tape by the time he made his announcement. Cam'ron's sophomore CD, Sports, Drugs, and Entertainment, is also scheduled for late summer, promising listeners another dose of the clever punch lines, humorous skits, and club-friendly beats.

Success has splashed some, and drenched a select few, of the MCs who once congregated in the park at 139th and Lenox. Most of those original nine have dissolved into obscurity altogether. Mase was a superstar who called it quits and found religion before he went nova. Cam'ron is well on his way to stellar status. But you still don't really know Big L—he's just another name to flip past in the rap section at your local store, another R.I.P. at the end of someone else's song. Maybe now that hip-hop is outselling country, Lamont Coleman's brand of the music is dead. But if it is, you should know that Big L's hip-hop was what gave life to that rap song on the radio that makes you feel so good.

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